By Mimi DEKE
The steady rise in kidney diseases and acute renal failure in Nigeria has been credited to several factors. There are few well equipped kidney centres where people can get proper diagnosis and dialysis.
Statistics have shown that only very few hospitals have dialysis machines. Whether at a primary or secondary stage, most sufferers in Nigeria try all manner of remedies before they finally turn to the hospital for professional help. While some just give up and remain at home, waiting for the inevitable, others solicit financial aid from public-spirited corporate entities and individuals to enable them get dialysis and in extreme cases, kidney transplant overseas.
In most private hospitals, cost of dialysis may run into thousands of naira per dialysis and a sufferer is expected to undergo a three hour dialysis at least three times a week, to remove all the impurities in the body and replace them with cleansed blood, until the next dialysis.
The emotional and psychological trauma that the sufferer and his relatives go through cannot be over-emphasized. The nearest dialysis centre to a patient may be kilometres away. Patients in the northern part of Nigeria have had to go as far as the National Hospital in Abuja, while some in the South West have had to travel to Lagos to get diagnosis and dialysis.
A combination of these factors make Chronic Kidney Disease one of the worst afflictions anyone can suffer in a developing country like Nigeria where public health institutions struggle daily to get funds to maintain dilapidating infrastructure, much less the funds to install state-of-the-art Heamodialysis equipment.
Many of those who come down with kidney problems are simply incapable of mobilizing the funds to undertake regular dialysis at the private institutions where the service is available at premium prices. This is what naturally leads many to take the course of publicizing their predicament in the hope that someone, or an organization with heart and means, will come to their rescue.
Over the past couple of years, MTN Foundation, the Corporate Social Investment vehicle of MTN Nigeria, has been inundated with such requests from desperate Nigerians. The Foundation, in response to the loads of request decided to establish a project called the MTNF Medical Support Project, (MSP). The goal of the project is two-pronged: To assist people with kidney failures and to enable the womenfolk to fight against breast cancer.
The Medical Support Project is providing two haemodialysis centres at public health institutions in the six geopolitical zones of the country to enable Nigerians with kidney-related problems receive affordable dialysis without which the sufferer may lose the battle for life. The second leg of the project entails the provision of six state-of-the-art mammography centres, also in government-owned hospitals, in the six geo-political zones of the country, to enable women screen their breasts for cancer.
Currently, the Foundation has commissioned heamodialysis centres at the General Hospital, Onitsha, Anambra State, University Teaching Hospital, Ado-Ekiti; Ekiti State and Benue State University Teaching Hospital, in Makurdi, Benue State.
In Benue, while the entire BSUTH is still under construction, the dialysis centre has become functional and catering for needs of patients in Benue State and its environs, including Nasarawa, Kogi and parts of Cross River States.
Anambra State Governor established a Breast, Kidney and Heart Centre in the General Hospital, Onitsha. Governors of Anambra, Ekiti and Benue, express gratitude to the MTN Foundation for equipping the Kidney dialysis units in their States.
For the people of these communities, the gains of the facility and the succour its services cannot be quantified. Mazi Chibuzor Nwaneri, a resident of Onitsha and a businessman who has experienced the trauma and pain of having a relative who suffers renal failure, expressed joy, especially when it was said that the service will be very affordable.
For Terfer Ajogo and Moronumumbo Awe in Makurdi and Ao-Ekiti, the stories were not different. They enthused that the quality of healthcare available in the two public health institutions had gone a notch higher with their ability to effectively manage kidney-related problems through the newly installed dialysis machines. Terfer particularly lauded the thought behind the initiative.
Moronumumbo who was present at the University Teaching Hospital, Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State during the launch of the Centre. charged the Foundation to support the hospital with consumables at least for a while, because according to her; Ekiti is rural, compared to Lagos, where such items can be easily sourced. MTNF will,however, provide all the consumables required in the centres for the next 12 months.
The new facilities will reduce the trauma for those affected and their family members. Dialysis is usually needed at least three times a week and with the plans of the hospitals to bring the costs down to the barest minimum, indeed there is hope for the common man.